A wry smile drifts across the face of Manny Osborne-Paradis when a reporter asks the 33-year-old speed skier if he has grown up.
"I think I've been growing up slowly but surely every year," he says, while breaking into laughter during an interview with CBC Sports at a downtown Toronto hotel.
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From his earliest days on the World Cup circuit, Osborne-Paradis has been "Mr. Joe Cool," a fun-loving athlete with a larger-than-life personality. But looking back at his career, he wishes he wasn't so resistant to help in his athletic endeavours.
"I needed to have more conversations about how to be better and let people in to help me. When I needed help, people weren't there because they didn't think I was helping myself, and I think I needed to inspire them a little more," says Osborne-Paradis. "I think since we made an administration change I've been more focused."
Osborne-Paradis, who makes his season debut in men's downhill at Lake Louise, Alta., on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET), is referring to Burkhard Schaffer's return in December 2014 as head coach of the Canadian men's speed team after eight years working with other countries.
"I learned a lot from my other coaches," adds Osborne-Paradis, "but I jibe with [Schaffer] a lot better. Everything's about working toward a common goal. When I first made the World Cup [in January 2005] I was skiing with him. I think he was the reason for the success of John Kucera, myself, Erik [Guay] and Jan [Hudec]. It's great we got him back."
Under Schaffer, the Canadian men won 12 World Cup medals in the 2006-07 season and another medal at the 2007 world championships, including Osborne-Paradis' first-ever World Cup medal, a downhill silver at Lake Louise.
Since then, Osborne-Paradis has recorded two World Cup victories and 10 World Cup podium finishes. But he has also dealt with various injuries and failed to post a top-15 finish in downhill or super-G at the Olympics in 2010 and 2014.
The Invermere, B.C., resident hopes his fortunes turn in February at the PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea.
"I've always thought I do better in high-pressure situations," Osborne-Paradis says, "but judging from my Olympic results I haven't done that well. In World Cup, it seems the bigger the event, the better I've done."
After Osborne-Paradis earned a bronze medal in super-G on his 33rd birthday at the alpine world championships last Feb. 8 in Switzerland, he posted three consecutive top-five downhill finishes to end the season, finishing 11th in the discipline and 29th overall on the World Cup circuit.
Osborne-Paradis attributed the late-season surge to knowledge gained about his skis following an equipment change months earlier and feeling more energetic after staying off snow last October, a request he says other coaches denied the Canadian men between Schaffer's two stints.
"Every race in January, February and March we were on top of our game. After January, I made some changes to my ski boots and was sixth in Garmisch [Germany]," says Osborne-Paradis. "The next day, I hooked an edge and wound up 28th, but was on my way to a podium [finish]. At world championships, it was the first time I had started in the top 30 in super-G since 2009.
'I build muscle very easily but lose my power endurance a little quicker, so we did more sprints and stair sprints to keep the body weight down.' — Canadian downhill skier Manny Osborne-Paradis on his off-season training
"I figured the skis out but I knew in order to take the next step I needed more strength this [past] summer."
Besides regular physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopath treatments, Osborne-Paradis did more individual training in the off-season to suit his needs, allowing him more time at home with wife Lana and daughter Sloane, who turns one on Saturday.
With his personal trainer, Lexie MacIntosh, Osborne-Paradis spent the first month in Invermere rehabbing nagging shoulder and knee problems and breaking down his weaknesses on the snow and in the gym.
"I feel really good. I build muscle very easily but lose my power endurance a little quicker, so we did more sprints and stair sprints to keep the body weight down," says Osborne-Paradis, who did similar work with Canadian team trainer Agneta Platter every third week in the summer. "Agneta's methodology is a little bit more refined to the top-30 World Cup racer [than our previous trainers].
"I think it added to the value of our team. I had a comeback year, Erik [Guay] and I peaked at world championships and Broderick Thompson started to push onto the World Cup."
As a reward, Schaffer cancelled a month of training after the final race of the season in mid-March at Aspen, Colo.
"I have more time at home [now] to mature as a father," Osborne-Paradis says, "and not just be a ski racer in a family that leaves all the time."...Read more